The Seasons of Farming

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My farmer hubs proposed to me almost one year to the day after our first date. Whether he would admit it or not, I knew we would get married about six months in. I spent the next six months waiting for him to pop the question.

After we were engaged my farmer explained that he wanted to wait a full year before proposing so I would understand and experience all of the seasons of farming. I didn’t grow up on a farm so needless to say, that year of dating was eye-opening and, at times, frustrating.

Nine-and-a-half years into this thing called marriage and working through the different seasons of farming is still challenging at times. The seasons haven’t changed but kids, work and community obligations make some months of the year more stressful to manage than others. Plus our farm has grown so there are more acres to plant and more cows to feed. It’s a good problem to have.

While our farm isn’t all that unique, our seasons likely look a little different than another farm. Here is a glimpse into a year at Sawyer Land & Cattle . . .

January: We welcome our first calves to first-time mothers (called heifers) and spend the rest of the month on around-the-clock calf watch. It’s fun to watch the new calves grow, play and explore but the work can be exhausting, especially when difficulties arise in the middle of the night. I know the farmer hubs takes great pride in his cows and I always have to chuckle a little when he complains about the lack of sleep because it’s the same routine all us mothers went through raising our own babies.

February: Calving continues full steam ahead with the cows (mothers who have had at least one calf previously) joining the heifers. Around-the-clock calf checks are still necessary and when Mother Nature brings in the cold and snow, the work becomes even more strenuous. Days are spent feeding cows, laying down hay for mothers and babies and keeping everything safe, healthy and warm.

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March: Calving season officially comes to a close (although we always have a straggler or two) and the night-time checks come to an end because our first-time-mothers have all delivered their calves. Feeding and general care of the animals continues and depending on the weather, that can be challening.

April: This is by far the busiest month on our farm. My husband likes to ceremoniously change from his felt (winter) cowboy hat to his straw (summer) hat as he drives his big, yellow semi truck to deliver mothers and baby calves to fresh green grass in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The multiple trips east have to be worked in with planting and field work. During this month corn will be planted and ground will be worked and prepared for more spring planting. It’s all hands on deck and there are no promises the farmer hubs will be home before the boys go to bed any day of the week.

May: Cattle hauling slows down but another trip out to our summer pastures is required to deliver our bulls to let them spend some time with the lady cows (wink, wink). We plant soybeans this month and finish up any corn planting that didn’t get done in April. Most of the cows are at their summer homes so the feeding and livestock responsibilities diminish.

June: Late June is typically the start of wheat harvest. There is often little time between the end of planting and the start of harvest. When wheat harvest begins, it’s a guaranteed 10 days to two weeks of 14-hour days and duties for all involved. The farmer mans the combine, which leaves me to get the kids shuffled to and from activities and keep everyone fed, hydrated and as happy as possible (which I sometimes fail miserably at). The boys always look forward to wheat harvest because there’s nothing better than riding shot-gun in the buddy seat of the combine or tractor. But little boys on the farm make for big, tired messes when they return home.

Derek and Evan in combine

July: If wheat harvest hasn’t finished, it will wrap up by the first week of the month. Then it’s onto working wheat ground to prepare it for whatever goes in next. About half of our acres are irrigated and if we haven’t done so already, we turn on our irrigation systems to keep our plants cool and hydrated. The farmer hubs makes regular visits to check on his cows, pick up his bulls and delivers any mineral or other supplies needed for the animals. During the summer months we always swath and bale brome hay and forage grasses, which we keep on the farm to feed to our cattle. Swathing and baling have to be done when the humidity and wind are just right and sometimes that occurs at 11 p.m. or 4 a.m.

August: If the summer has been a scorcher then we may begin chopping our corn crops for silage to feed our cattle. This is another favorite of the boys, and because we hire a crew to chop our corn, it’s not as demanding on the farmer hubs’ time. He keeps busy running our irrigation systems, managing herbicide and fertilizer applications and making sure the animals are staying safe in the heat.

Corn Silage
A chopper cuts the corn plants and immediately despots the pieces into a grain truck, which travels alongside the chopper.

September: Corn harvest begins in earnest which means the combine is back in action and the little guys are back in the field with dad and grandpa. Once the corn crop is out, we move onto soybeans. And anytime acres are harvested, they have to be worked and readied for the next crop. We typically start planting our next wheat crop this month but that often depends on the weather and soil conditions.

October: Soybean harvest and field prep continues. Depending on the weather – mainly the humidity – the guys can work well into the night and weekends, if needed. Things are a bit slower but there is still plenty to do.

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November: Fall harvest wraps up (hopefully) and equipment is cleaned out and put away for the winter. Our cows begin arriving home and the farmer hubs sets up fencing and watering stations for cows that will graze on corn stalks and winter at various pastures. We help with the trucking of the animals back home, which means more time on the road in the big yellow truck (this time with the straw hat back in the closet and the felt hat on).

December: This is probably our slowest month of the year but with animals back at the farm, daily feeding and care taking is required. Decembers are usually pretty mild in Kansas so we typically don’t have a lot of issues but year-end reports are due and equipment, facilities and supplies have to be in order to welcome a new crop of calves in January. We always enjoy our bit of downtime knowing that the crazy season is just around the corner.

As you can see, there is always something happening at Sawyer Land & Cattle. Farming is not your typical 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. job.  And while some seasons of the year require a seven-day work week, other months allow for a mid-week vacation and 3 p.m. quitting time to catch a Royals baseball game. Farming life isn’t easy but there is nothing the farmer hubs would rather do.

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